What a young Michelle Obama learned about Barack from his beat-up, yellow Datsun – CNBC

When a young Michelle Obama first visited Barack at Harvard Law School, she was surprised to see him pull up in a “snub-nosed, banana-yellow Datsun.”

It was in that moment that she knew: “Life with Barack would never be dull,” the former first lady wrote in her new book “Becoming.”

The two had recently started dating, having met in 1989 after Barack took a summer position as an associate at Chicago law firm Sidley Austin where Michelle was a first-year lawyer.

Barack, 28, lived frugally as a “loan-strapped” student. Still, when she arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts to visit after he returned to law school, she was surprised to see the condition of his rusted, beat up car, bought used on his student budget. She asked, in awe, “You drive this thing?”

Smiling, the future president turned the key in his Datsun. “The engine revved and the car spasmed violently before settling into a loud, sustained juddering that shook us in our seats,” wrote Michelle.

“Just give it a minute or two,” he assured her. “It goes away.”

After they waited for the car to start, Barack then warned her to avoid the “rusted-out, four-inch hole” in the car’s floor. Through it, Michelle said she “could see the pavement rushing beneath us.”

The experience, combined with his confidence, charmed her. At 25, Michelle found early success with law and the perks that came with it, including an office in a high-rise and her own assistant. On her new salary, one higher than her parents ever made, she could now afford a brand new Saab and pay her student loans. Still, despite her success and hard work, she said her passion for law was low.

By contrast, Barack seemed assured of his path, even without Michelle’s same “lockstep march” to success. He didn’t talk about buying material things, even shoes, and spent most of his money on books, “sacred objects,” that he’d read late into the night. Wrote Michelle, he was “like a unicorn.”

It did occur to Michelle that Barack might never make any money, she wrote, but the idea of life with him seemed exciting.

“It would be some version of banana yellow and slightly hair-raising,” she wrote. “I knew it even then.”

The two would marry in 1992. Barack’s vows would not promise riches, but only an interesting life. Said Michelle, “On that promise, he delivered.”

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Don’t miss: